WASHINGTON—The District of Columbia insurance regulator and exchange director advised district residents to watch out for scam artists. Beginning Oct. 1, residents will be able to shop for health insurance on the new online marketplace, DC Health Link and enroll, with coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2014.
“We’re committed to seeing DC Health Link bring quality health insurance to people who have never been able to afford it before,” said William P. White, commissioner of Department of Insurance and Securities and Banking (DISB).
The Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) “regulates financial service institutions and activities within the District of Columbia to protect consumers from unfair practices, promote economic development, and provide a fair financial market that benefits consumers and businesses,” states its website.
Commissioner White continued: “We’re equally committed, in coordination with DC Health Link, to ensure none of these people are robbed while trying to provide insurance for themselves and their families. Our message to scam artists is: ‘We will find you.’”
The online health benefit exchange marketplace will allow people to compare and shop for health insurance that fits their budget and coverage needs. Health insurance brokers and assisters will be available to help consumers find the right insurance plan for themselves.
In August, the DC Health Benefit Exchange Authority approved grants to 35 District-based organizations to provide in-person assistance to individuals, families and small businesses in the process of purchasing insurance from the DC Health Link online marketplace. Faith-based community organizations and community health organizations are among the organizations with trained staff to assist health insurance consumers.
Capital City Area Health Education Center (CC AHEC), DC Women’s Business Center, and the Young Invincibles, partnered to create Assist DC, which is working on the ground and through various networks to reach the uninsured and underinsured DC residents.
“As DC Health Benefits Exchange In-Person Assister grantees we stand ready to serve as ‘DC Health Linkers,’” said Shreya Thompson Robinson, executive director of the CC AHEC in testimony in August to the District of Columbia Council, Committee on Health.
When exploring health insurance options, the DISB recommends that individuals be weary of people selling fraudulent policies or attempting to obtain your personal information, such as Social Security and bank account numbers.
DISB advises people to not be fooled by fake websites that claim to help you and charge you money before the DC Health Link open enrollment period begins on Oct. 1. DISB says that a common scammer ploy to telephone people and claim to have their new Obamacare insurance or Medicare card. The Affordable Care Act, known colloquially as Obamacare, does not require new insurance cards.
Ninety-four DC Health Link Assisters have completed more than 30 hours of training and are prepared to help consumers enroll come Oct. 1, said Mila Kofman, executive director of the DC Health Exchange Authority in an executive board teleconference on Sept. 26. The number of assisters will grow to nearly 200 in October, according to DC Health Link.
Working with a trained and approved assister, broker or community organization may reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a scam.
Despite instances of fraud, the DC Health Link is excited about their Oct. 1 launch. “My prediction is that we are going to be the best shop in the nation. We have more than 267 options…and we have all of the major insurers participating,“ Kofman said.
She recommended that individuals and small business owners attend DC Health Link seminars to learn more about the exchange through its seminars held at organizations throughout the District. More information on the DC Health Link can be found at their website www.dchealthlink.com.